Endeavour shuttle lands at Cape Canaveral
WASHINGTON, August 21 (RIA Novosti) - The Endeavour shuttle successfully landed at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 12:32 p.m. EDT (4:32 p.m. GMT) after a turbulent trip to the International Space Station, NASA said Tuesday.
The trip was complicated by damage to the shuttle's heat tiles, and the return journey was brought forward one day by a Caribbean hurricane.
"Commander Scott Kelly guided the spacecraft through its complicated glide back to Earth at 12:32 EDT, completing a mission that added a new piece to the International Space Station, delivered almost three tons of supplies to the laboratory and proved a new power transfer system works," NASA said on its Web site.
"The landing also marked the completion of teacher-turned-astronaut Barbara Morgan's first spaceflight," the statement said.
Endeavour ran into several difficulties on its mission. A few days before the start of the mission, NASA staff preparing the shuttle for the flight discovered and fixed an air leak. It was then established that an employee from a NASA subcontractor had deliberately cut wires in a computer that was to be delivered to the ISS.
After a gash was discovered in Endeavour's protective heat tiles, caused when a piece of insulating foam broke loose on takeoff on August 8, mission control had to determine whether in-flight repairs would be needed, or whether the shuttle could survive the heat of re-entry in its damaged state.
Similar damage to Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 allowed super-heated gases to enter the wing on re-entry, causing the vehicle to disintegrate over Texas, killing its seven-member crew.
NASA decided on Sunday to bring the Endeavour shuttle back to Earth a day early due to concerns over a powerful storm, Hurricane Dean, which reached Category Five - the highest possible - over Mexico earlier Tuesday, and has killed at least 11 people in the Caribbean in the past few days.
The storm also caused a spacewalk to be curtailed over fears that mission control could have to be evacuated because of Hurricane Dean.
"While at the station, the astronauts conducted four spacewalks to continue on-orbit construction and perform repair work at the station. The major spacewalking tasks included the installation of the Starboard 5 truss, replacement of a faulty attitude control gyroscope and preparations for assembly work by future crews," NASA said.
"STS-118 is the 119th space shuttle flight and the 22nd shuttle mission to visit the station. The next shuttle mission, STS-120, is targeted to launch in late October," NASA said.
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